A drawing submitted to the Town of Williston shows the back of one of the commercial buildings planned for Route 2.
By Jason Starr
The primary western entrance to Williston will be transformed under a plan to build three commercial/industrial buildings totaling 103,000 square feet along Route 2 near the South Burlington border.
The Williston Development Review Board gave the plan preliminary approval Tuesday. The buildings would go up next to the U-Haul facility that is under construction, part of a nine-lot industrially zoned subdivision created in 2018 on the former Robear family farm. The three buildings would sit on about 9 acres of currently forested land.
The U-Haul facility and a Morway’s Storage business have already been approved in the subdivision. Patrick O’Brien of GPA LLC, the applicant on the project, said no uses or tenants have yet been identified for the buildings. The application will need a second, final approval from the Development Review Board in order to move to construction. Board members encouraged O’Brien to be aware that the buildings will be among the first things people see when entering Williston eastbound on Route 2.
“This is changing the character of what’s coming into Williston dramatically,” board chair Peter Kelley told O’Brien. “It is an important project. Please take due care with it.”
O’Brien recognizes the visibility of the proposal.
“We want it to be a really nice looking building,” he said, “one that is attractive to all the people who live in Williston, who are visiting Williston and who will be doing business there.”
Hotel-to-housing plan also gets nod
Also Tuesday, the board gave final approval to a plan to convert the TownePlace Suites hotel on Zephyr Road into homeless transition and low-income housing. The apartments, totaling 71 studio and one-bedroom units, will be owned and managed by the Champlain Housing Trust. About half will be kept perpetually affordable at 80 percent of Chittenden County’s median income and the other half subsidized for people transitioning out of homelessness.
The Champlain Housing Trust will staff an on-site property manager.
In a letter to the board, Williston resident Steve Zebertavage expressed concern that the project will bring “homeless culture” to town.
“Transitional housing for families trying to adapt to the economic and social fabric of Vermont is a welcome endeavor, but housing long-term homeless people within our community will only serve to degrade our community environment,” he wrote.
Board member David Turner asked Miranda Lescaze, director of real estate development at the Champlain Housing Trust — who was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting at Town Hall — whether the organization has any restrictions on housing people with criminal records. But Kelley, the board chair, said the board could not base decisions on that criteria and dropped the question from being entertained.
The addition of 70-plus new residents could create a parking squeeze for the on-street parking on Day Lane, said Brett Grabowski of Milot Real Estate, which built the nearby Hamlet apartments and owns some of the commercial real estate on Zephyr Road.
“That parking is already used and there will be an immediate and definite impact to the businesses and residences that are already located in that area,” Grabowski said.
Lescaze said the 100-plus parking spaces in the hotel parking lot is enough to meet the demand of the apartments without a need for street parking on Day Lane. She also noted that many of the tenants are likely to not own cars.